Oliver Burkeman: The Negative Path to Happiness and Success

“Get motivated!” and “stay positive!” are common bits of self-help advice. But have we gone too far in our penchant for positivity? Leaning on research (including a story about Mount Everest climbers), reporter and author Oliver Burkeman shares the counterintuitive insight of how abandoning goals and allowing some negativity in can actually be helpful.

“Theres a real benefit to finding ways to loosen our grip as goal driven people. When you look at successful entrepreneurs…you find they don’t follow this stereotype.” Instead, Burkeman says, we should remain ready to adapt where we are heading and the embrace uncertainty that scares us. 

Working Podcast: The “How Does Stephen Colbert Work?” Edition

Another great podcast. On the first episode of Working, David Plotz talks with Stephen Colbert on how he puts his show together and turns himself from Stephen Colbert into the character “Stephen Colbert”—starting from when he wakes up in the morning, what he watches for inspiration, how he knows the material is any good, all the way through to the actual filming of the show.

The Alarming New Research on Perfectionism

Melissa Dahl in New York Magazine's Science of Us

In one 2007 study, researchers conducted interviews with the friends and family members of people who had recently killed themselves. Without prompting, more than half of the deceased were described as “perfectionists” by their loved ones. Similarly, in a British study of students who committed suicide, 11 out of the 20 students who’d died were described by those who knew them as being afraid of failure. In another study, published last year, more than 70 percent of 33 boys and young men who had killed themselves were said by their parents to have placed “exceedingly high” demands and expectations on themselves — traits associated with perfectionism.